Navigating a Breakup With a Narcissist

Posted on May 20th, 2023
A word board of descriptions of a narcissist

There’s no one-size-fits-all blueprint for identifying narcissists, so by the time we actually realize that we’re in a relationship with one, it can take some work to extricate ourselves from that relationship.

Any breakup or divorce is difficult, but navigating a breakup with someone with narcissistic tendencies adds even more complexity. Leaving a narcissist will come with a range of manipulation, mind games, guilt trips, and retaliation, so it’s best to be prepared for when you do walk out of the door.

Here’s what you need to know about leaving a narcissist and how to navigate the journey in the healthiest way possible.

Tips for breaking up with a narcissist while preserving your mental health

Stop trying to hold them accountable

Most people are able to have reasonable discussions together and pinpoint when certain things that they have said or done have been unacceptable. However, it will be a long and emotional battle if you’re expecting a narcissist to admit they are wrong.

You see, a narcissist doesn’t shoulder a single iota of blame in a relationship. Instead, they’ll flip between gaslighting you, “Why are you so sensitive?”, “You’re crazy,” etc., and the promise of changing in order to get you to stay. They move the goalposts constantly and your sense of reality starts to become warped. You could even begin to believe that you’re the one in the wrong.

Understand one thing: You cannot hold a narcissist accountable for their actions. They simply won’t allow you to, and accepting this is one of the first steps to leaving them behind.

Pay attention to your moments of clarity

By the end of your relationship, there’s a high chance that your narcissistic partner has isolated you from your friends and family. This means that you might not have anyone to bounce ideas off of or ask advice from. There’s no external opinion to help you through the brain fog and confusion that a narcissist can cause.

You’re likely spending quite a lot of your time in emotional turmoil and walking on eggshells, but you’ll undoubtedly have moments of inner clarity. It’s in these moments that you’ll often realize that you have to leave. It’s important to hold onto these moments to remind yourself of your decision when you are starting to be manipulated and question your decision.

Remember that they aren’t going to change

Most of us know what it’s like to put effort into our mental health and we’ve also seen people turn their lives around and so we often think that the person we love will make the effort to change for us.

The problem is that narcissists are unable to admit their faults, shoulder any blame, and in most cases, will not change their behavior. Most changes are ephemeral and you’ll pay for them dearly by pointing out a narcissist’s shortcoming.

You are the only person that you need to look after during this time. You’ve put up with enough and it’s time to stop hoping for redemption and that your partner will change.

Leaving doesn’t make you a bad person

Leaving a narcissistic partner doesn’t make you a bad person. Narcissists are excellent manipulators and they will guilt you into believing that you are abandoning them. They will say anything that they can to get you to change your mind and keep you under their control.

Always remember that leaving doesn’t make you a bad person. Prioritizing your mental health and safety is your goal and while leaving might hurt, it’s ultimately the correct decision.

Admit your mistakes, but don’t let them be used against you

It’s quite alright to admit that you’re not perfect. You’ve done ‘bad’ things and made mistakes in life and in relationships. You might have been pushed into a corner until you snapped, or you might have said hurtful things in the heat of the moment.

However, it’s important to remember that you should never let a narcissist use these mistakes as ammo. They will try to use these things against you as an excuse for their own behavior. “You have no room to call me a narcissist when you said…” and so on.

Remember that everyone makes mistakes, but unlike a narcissist, most people don’t deliberately set traps, guilt trip, and gaslight others for their own amusement. You might not be completely innocent in the breakdown of the relationship, but that doesn’t mean you should be used as an emotional or physical punching bag because of your mistakes either.

You can’t rationalize a narcissist’s behavior

It’s time to stop trying to explain away your partner’s behavior. Unfortunately, there are rational reasons why someone could be a narcissist – family dynamics, repressed trauma, substance abuse, genetics, mental health, etc. However, it’s essential that you don’t spend all of your time trying to rationalize why someone is the way that they are.

It’s not your job to psychoanalyze why they did something or didn’t. This is just a game of smoke and mirrors because, at the end of the day, the only person who can tell you any of this is the narcissist themselves, but they are unlikely to do so, seeing as that would be admitting that they have done something wrong in the first place.

Trying to explain their behavior will just make you more sympathetic and ultimately more susceptible to being guilted into staying.

Don’t let them mess with your head

Narcissists are excellent at mind games and they truly turn this on during a breakup. One of the most common scenarios is a narcissist moving onto a new relationship extremely quickly. This is multi-faceted.

Firstly, they want you to see how quickly they can move on. This makes you jealous and it makes you question whether they were actually so bad in the first place. They could tell you that they still love you despite being with someone new, as this makes you fixate on them rather than spending time working on yourself and healing.

Secondly, narcissists need attention. They move on quickly as a distraction and find someone new to do exactly what they were doing to you. They also completely lack empathy and compassion for others, so moving on quickly is incredibly easy for them.

So, stop letting them get into your head and focus on your own journey to happiness.

Know that the time with never be right to leave

It’s amazing how many excuses we can make when it comes to taking difficult steps. It’s easy to find reasons why leaving right now isn’t a good time. Whether that’s because they are under work pressure, their birthday is coming up, or it’s the holiday season.

You have to understand that there will never be a right time to leave a narcissist and it’s always going to be difficult. So stop making excuses and realize that now is the time to leave.

Use your support system

Sometimes a breakup with a narcissist doesn’t mean that you can stop communicating with them completely, unfortunately. If you have joint assets or children, then chances are you’ll still have to stay in touch. This is ideal for a narcissist, as it gives them the opportunity to use your history to create even more trauma and to make you look and feel unstable.

This is where you really need to lean into a support system, whether that’s friends, family or professionals. Find people that will call you out whenever you are going down a self-sabotage route and who will help keep you grounded.

Try The Narcissist Abuse Recovery Program

At Naked Recovery, we have a specialized course for those that are coming out of a relationship with a narcissist. The Narcissist Abuse Recovery Program is a four-month program that coaches you along the recovery journey after your relationship. You will be guided by an experienced trauma coach, who will support your healing and recovery while equipping you with the tools to thrive going forward.

Contact us for more information on The Narcissist Abuse Recovery Program or any of our other specialized trauma programs.

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